After our trip to Camiguin island last year, my siblings and I vowed, we would explore the other islands of the Philippines, one at a time or at least one island every time we meet up for homecoming, each year. We are six siblings, with FIVE living abroad and having different vacation times as per our work schedules. It’s difficult for all of us to be home at the same time so we make the most of it and whoever is home, go together for out of town trips.
The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,100+ islands – we’ll never run out of islands to go! This year, we picked Bohol island.
WHERE IS BOHOL?
Bohol, is a province of the Philippines, in the country’s Central Visayas region, comprising Bohol Island and 70-plus smaller surrounding islands.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are no international flights to going directly to Bohol’s capital city of Tagbilaran. However, there’s Mactan International Airport in Cebu, an island west of Bohol. You can fly to Cebu and take a fast craft to Tagbilaran port (below photo is taken at Tagbilaran port showing a fast craft going to the direction of Cebu, that land mass silhouette you can see in the horizon). There are also flights from Manila to Tagbilaran.
Super Cat and Ocean Jet are two fast crafts servicing between Cebu and Tagbilaran and the ferry ride lasts for only two hours, one way. We used Trans Asia Shipping Lines from Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao island to Tagbilaran. The ship left at 7 pm from Cagayan de Oro and arrived at 4 am the next day in Tagbilaran.
We could have opted to take a plane to Cebu and then transfer to a fast craft to Tagbilaran but it was too much of a hassle since the airport is far from where we live. Plus, I kind of missed taking an overnight ferry trip…
There are two basic classes in Philippines’ inter-island ferries. There’s economy class which is an open air deck (very hot and humid before the ship departs!) and then there’s the “Tourist” class, an air-conditioned section which is cleaner and more comfortable. However, if you’re a bit claustrophobic, you might feel a little uncomfortable, especially when the weather is not too good.
The kids took their very first long distance ferry ride and were amazing. Pristine didn’t say anything bad about it (except that, she didn’t like the creepy crawlies that occasionally appear LOL). Benjamin slept from around 9 pm to the time we arrived at Tagbilaran port at dawn the next day.
Though the weather was good when we left Cagayan de Oro City and our journey was uneventful like the ferry was cruising through butter (that smooth), our trip going back home was the opposite. Monsoon season made its presence felt and wanted to cap our perfect vacation with a little slap of tropical country reality. Four hours after leaving Tagbilaran port, when we were midway between Bohol and Mindanao island, I was awakened with big waves slapping the left side of the ship and the ship would shake. It was cloudy outside.The rocking motion made me feel nauseous lying down.
TIP: If you’re travelling during the rainy season/monsoon, take an anti-nausea drug before your voyage. In the Philippines, the most popular brand is Bonamine (also available for kids in chewable form) and available over the counter.
GETTING AROUND AND TOURING BOHOL
The resort where we will be staying in Panglao, The Bellevue Bohol Resort had arranged someone to pick us from Tagbilaran port which we really appreciated since we arrived before sunrise. Most resorts and hotels in Bohol will have pick up services available so be sure to arrange that before your arrival. Otherwise, there are private pick up services just outside the port – unfortunately I cannot vouch for the safety of these services. If you don’t know anyone from Bohol, friends or family to pick you up at the port, you can contact the Bohol Tourism office through their website or email them at email@example.com for viable options. I am sure they can recommend a pick up service that’s legit and safe.
If you want to take a tour on Panglao island or the Bohol countryside tour (eco tourism tours also available), there are several travel tours and companies you can find when you do a search online. However, I wanted to book a tour company that’s trusted and with a good reputation – we used Travel Village and Tours, as recommended by the Bohol Tourism office. (More about them in the next post about our Bohol Countryside Tour).
If you are on a budget, you can also go short distances around Bohol aboard these pedicabs – a small carriage that could carry two passengers in the sidecar and one behind the driver. There’s no air conditioning system, you travel al fresco. There are no meters in these vehicles, you negotiate with the driver, explaining your journey and agree on a price.
We used this a couple of times, to the delight of the kids (although Benjamin isn’t showing his joy much in this photo…he is just camera shy!).
WHAT’S IN BOHOL?
In one short sentence: The vastness of nature.
From shades of green, to shades of blue real quick.
Bohol is also home to the Philippine Tarsier, one of the world’s smallest primate. The Philippine tarsier, as its name suggests, is endemic to the Philippine archipelago. This nocturnal, shy and solitary animal is considered endangered.
According to our guide who is a native Boholanon (people born and raised in Bohol), there are absolutely no factories in the entire island of Bohol. The quality of air can attest to that!
Aside from pristine beaches, blue skies, rich flora and fauna, Bohol is also home to some of the country’s oldest churches, falls and underground caves.
WHERE TO STAY IN BOHOL
Bohol has a large number of hotels, resorts, and other facilities for tourists. Most of these are concentrated in Tagbilaran and around Alona Beach, with a few more scattered around the island. Travelers and tourists stay at more affordable hotels in Tagbilaran if they want to focus on the countryside tour of the main island rather than spend time at pricier resorts in Panglao island. (Panglao island tour and spending time at a public beach in Panglao can be easily included in your itinerary even if you stay at a hotel in Tagbilaran City.)
We stayed first at The Bellevue Bohol Resort in Panglao island to celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary together with my father’s 67th birthday. The resort is located on the other side of the more popular section of the island’s Alona beach stretch which meant it was more quiet, clean and unspoiled!
There infinity pool facing the open sea is something out of a vacationer’s dream.
I’ll be writing a very detailed review of our unforgettable stay soon!
After spending two glorious days at the resort in Panglao, we moved to Tagbilaran City and stayed at a new-ish boutique hotel called 717 Cesar Place, near the city center. The hotel is basic, with clean rooms and there’s a restaurant that wasn’t too expensive and served well. Access to the city center is easy as it is located in the main road.
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Bohol is just one of the many, many paradise islands in the Philippines. Have you heard of it? Maybe you have heard of Boracay or Palawan and Cebu but Bohol (along with Camiguin which we visited last year) deserves appreciation and recognition, too. If you’re a nature lover, you will absolutely love it and if you live in the desert (hello, Dubai friends!), why don’t you go and inhale some unadulterated air and marvel at the vast green spaces in Bohol?